Thursday, September 09, 2021

10 Important Classroom Considerations for Hyperlexic Learners

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Ten important classroom considerations for hyperlexic learners. These are things parents can look for in a school and things teachers can do to accommodate these students in their classroom.

When it comes to picking the right school setting for a hyperlexic child, it can be a tough decision to make. Should you homeschool? Should you send them to public school? How about a language immersion program or Montessori? There are plenty of options!

And really, hyperlexic kids can thrive in any school setting as long as these 3 things are kept in mind.

But let's say you've decided on sending them to school versus homeschooling them. 

Well, what should you look for in that school?

Or maybe you're here reading this as a teacher, wondering how to best support your hyperlexic student. 

Well, these classroom considerations for hyperlexic learners are a great guide for both parents and teachers. Below you'll find 10 criteria that you'll want to consider.

Hyperlexia and school: things to consider

10 Classroom Considerations for Hyperlexic Learners

There are a few things parents and teachers should consider when it comes to teaching and supporting hyperlexic learners at school. Keep in mind that these 10 criteria are just a starting point. There will likely be other things you might want to consider that are unique to your child. So let's take a closer look, shall we?

1. Small Class Sizes

Hyperlexic kids do best in classrooms that are small in size. They need peers to learn from, but too many kids can be overwhelming for them. Kupperman, Bligh, & Barouski (1998) offered these class sizes as guidelines:

  • Preschool: 6-10 kids
  • Kindergarten: 10-15 kids
  • Elementary years: 18-25

If you can find a school program that has small classroom sizes like this, then that's great. However, in actuality, the chances of finding small classroom sizes like these aren't always possible due to school budgets, enrollment levels, and staffing issues. But they're still important to keep in mind. After all, some programs and schools might offer smaller class sizes that will be a better fit for your child.

2. Limited Visual Distractions

Most classrooms are filled with visual clutter. There are usually brightly colored posters all over the place, for instance. The thing is that all that visual clutter is distracting for hyperlexic students. It's best to keep the classroom d├ęcor minimal so that it isn't distracting or overwhelming to your students.

3. Preferential Seating Arrangements

A hyperlexic child does best in the classroom when they are seated close to a teacher and away from distractions. That means having them sit away from windows, doors, heating/cooling units, thermometers, etc.  

I remember my son getting distracted by the traffic lights that he could see outside his classroom windows when he was in grade one and two. Or there was the time that my son was trying to play with thermometers at our local children's center because the only open chair for us to sit and wait in was right underneath a thermometer. Seriously, who puts a chair under a thermometer anyway? 

4. Structured Routine

Hyperlexic kids do well in classrooms that have a structured routine. Like many young kids, hyperlexic kids love routine. They like to know what's happening next, but they can also struggle with transitions between tasks. However, having a clearly outlined routine or schedule can have a huge impact on their success in the classroom.

You'll also want to make sure that the routine is visual in nature. Our hyperlexic kids need things to be written down instead of just given verbally. So things like visual schedules are super helpful for providing the structure that these kids need.

5. Visual & Manipulative Aids

Since we just discussed visual schedules, let's talk more about visual aids and using manipulatives. Hyperlexic kids are visual learners so it's important to use things that make learning more visual for them. That may include using hands-on manipulatives, posters, checklists, and so on. Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Posting a list of written rules (instead of relying on verbal reminders)
  • Creating a storytelling basket with props to aid in comprehension
  • Using a Story Grammar Marker, a tool that helps kids remember the different parts of a story
  • Providing manipulatives such as bear counters, base ten blocks, etc. to work on math concepts
  • Writing down a checklist of steps to break down larger tasks
  • Showing an example or two of a completed art project so they know what it should look like when they're done creating theirs
  • Using graphic organizers for assignments
  • Labels on drawers, lockers, desk, supplies, etc. so they know what belongs to whom and where

6. Appropriate & Ongoing Supports

In order to be successful in the classroom, your hyperlexic child should have accommodations, supports, and/or modifications that are supportive of their ongoing needs. Some of these might be outlined in an IIP, IEP, 504 plan, or similar. What these supports might be, however, will vary from student to student. 

7. Strong Language Development Module

As Kupperman et al. (1998) outlined, the "curriculum for the classroom should include language development both expressive and receptive, written and oral, as well as the development of the use of language which accommodates the learning style of these children."

8. Additional Support Services & Teacher's Aides/Assistants

Hyperlexic kids often - but not always - need support with speech, language, and sensory integration, among other things. So it's important for them to have access to an occupational therapist, speech therapist, or even resource room programs (e.g., maybe a small group that focuses on comprehension) at school. 

They can also benefit from having a paraprofessional, teacher's aide, or teaching assistant help them throughout the school day.

9. Flexible Program

Kupperman et al. (1998) noted that programs for hyperlexic kids "should be flexible enough to use reading and rote learning skills even if they are out of order developmentally." 

And it's vital that the school recognizes the hyperlexic child's reading abilities and uses them to help them learn (see point #1 here for more information). I cannot stress that enough.

10. Comprehension is Prioritized

Here's something else I cannot emphasize enough: prioritize comprehension! 

"If a young reader is known to have hyperlexia...parents and professionals should consider the child at risk for comprehension issues from the start of the reading career, and certainly from the start of school." (Iland, 2011) Basically, it's been argued that the presence of hyperlexia can be considered a red flag (I hate that term, by the way) for comprehension issues. 

However, potential gaps in comprehension can be missed due to the hyperlexic child's strong decoding skills. Or, as Robertson (2019) points out, "the comprehension deficit was there all along - hiding in plain sight but overlooked by parents and educators who may have been blinded by the students' early reading strengths."

So please don't overlook, minimize, or brush off potential comprehension issues even if your child seems to comprehend fine right now (don't get me started on this!). Instead, make it a priority to build comprehension skills. It's important to make sure that your child's school and teacher are on board to help build these skills too. Hint: include it in your child's IIP/IEP plan.

A Quick Recap on Hyperlexia & Classroom Considerations

So just to recap, a hyperlexic student will do well in a school classroom that:

  • Has a small class size
  • Limits visual distractions
  • Uses preferential seating arrangements
  • Follows a structured routine
  • Uses visual and manipulative aids
  • Allows for appropriate and ongoing supports
  • Includes a strong language development module
  • Provides additional support services and a teacher's aide or assistant, as needed
  • Is flexible and recognizes the hyperlexic child's reading abilities
  • Prioritizes comprehension skills

Hopefully you found these classroom considerations for hyperlexic learners helpful!

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Important school classroom considerations for hyperlexic learners